The Athenaeum of Philadelphia is the repository of working drawings by the great 19th-century architect Frank Furness.
Currently it has something more whimsical on exhibition. Bulging eyes. Prolonged noses. Mouths twisted in grotesque grimaces.
“He had a great way of looking at your face and finding the couple distinctive features about your cheeks, forehead, or nose, and stretching them to the point where you are recognizable but making you look — frankly — ghastly,” said Michael Lewis, a professor of art history at Williams College.
Lewis curated “Face and Form: The Art and Caricature of Frank Furness,” a selection of drawings from Furness’ personal sketchbooks, most of which are privately held by his descendants and have never been seen publicly.
Throughout his long career as an architect, Furness constantly drew funny faces for his own amusement, often at the expense of friends, clients, and relatives who were the subjects of the drawings. The quick but deftly accomplished illustrations hang beside examples of his architectural work to show that an exaggerated chin and comically sloped forehead are echoed in the bold, expressive elements of his buildings.